Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Letter - Alder Eli Judge and the 911 Center Oversight Board

Below is a open letter sent by a group of UW-Madison students to several Madison area news organizations regarding Alder Eli Judge's failure to attend meetings of the 911 Center Oversight Board in the year prior to Brittany Zimmerman's murder. I was given this letter by a local reporter who felt his organization had not appropriately covered it, and who wanted me to post it. Following the letter are related links including Eli Judge's response on his blog.

Before anyone tears into me, be aware that I fully understand the political and personal overtones here. This post is informational; my attempt to create a repository for everything that's been written publicly on the subject. If you know of stories or posts that I've missed, let me know. Also, given the history of some of the folks involved in this issue, please understand that I will delete any inappropriate or off-topic comments.
Open Letter to Alder Eli Judge

As your constituents, we and many other students were delighted that your campaign in 2007 was a positive, issue-oriented contest with your opponent, Lauren Woods, in which each of you testified over and over about your strong commitment to campus safety and women's safety. You each published plans for campus safety, and talked about it on your website and literature. This deep commitment to our safety was reiterated so many times that people truly believed it, voted for you, and gave you the weighty opportunity to put your words into action and fight to improve campus and community safety.

Given this background of your oft-professed passion for public safety, certainly you can understand why we are shocked and outraged at your failure to attend even one meeting of the 911 Center Oversight Board in the entirety of your term of service. This is completely unacceptable and unprecedented. It would be unacceptable if you missed nine consecutive monthly meetings of any committee, but to completely ignore the key issue that you made a centerpiece of your campaign smacks of an arrogance unrivaled even among the haughty club of elected officials you worked so hard to join last year.

Alder Judge, if you had a conflict in your schedule with the meetings of this committee, then you should have resigned your seat as soon as it was apparent so that the City of Madison could have been properly represented on the Board. To hold a seat on an oversight body of such a critical part of our public safety infrastructure, knowing that you were unable to fulfill the most basic of all duties, attendance, is to demonstrate woefully negligent indifference to the needs and safety of your constituents and Dane County as a whole. After the tragic death of Brittany Zimmerman and the galling failure of our 911 operations, many have wondered what role proper oversight could have played in preventing Brittany's unnecessary death. We will never know whether real oversight could have prevented this or other tragedies, because your habitual absences deprived the City of Madison of its role in oversight of the 911 Center operations, a critical inter-governmental public safety function.

We are left comparing your public expressions of condolence and care with your record of inaction, inattention, and indifference. Especially after an election campaign in which you raised and politicized the critical issue of public safety, as well as had surrogates criticize your opponent for missing far less important meetings, we are left with no other choice than to find your service unacceptable, and demand your immediate resignation from the 911 Center Oversight Board and the Common Council. The students of UW-Madison deserve better in a representative, and the City of Madison deserves better in its public safety efforts.

We understand that the Mayor is already taking long-overdue steps to remove you from the 911 Center Oversight Board, and we hope that you will do the honorable thing and resign your seat in order to allow service from a student who will not just talk about public safety, but who will actually show up and make a difference on behalf of the UW campus. As constituents on this campus, we deserve no less.


Lydia Barbash-(I deleted the contact info originally here)
Mingwei Huang
Karren Lawson
Kari Muldore
Kelly Rentscher
Mathew Maus
Donald Spann
Brian Febbo
John Cokins
J. Aaron Blecher
Alex Ippolito
Nicholas McCann
Zachary Hirschtritt
Jake Guyette
Josh Guyette
Katherine Baeten
Alicia Abercrombie
Darin Gaffield
Anna Hundt-Golden
Eli Judge's response.

Original Channel 27 news article.

Second Channel 27 article.

Third Channel 27 article.

Critical Badger blog post 1.

Critical Badger blog post 2.

Critical Badger blog post 3.

Something Verbose blog post.

Isthmus forum thread.


Justin Elder said...

Brilliant letter. Eli Judge's consistent absenteeism needs to be accounted for, love how these kids love to make it about something else. Thanks for posting this Russell!

Anonymous said...

This is a detailed letter that lays out a very well thought-out critique. If I were a parent I would be proud of these students for their civic engagement. Love the blog Russell, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wallace,

Please post the text of this letter on your blog post, in full, if you are trying to be fair about this and not a political hack. You can delete this comment once you've posted the letter, in full.

- It has more UW-Madison student signatures

-The public figures on campus who have come to the defense of Eli Judge

Also Russell, how can you post this without noting the Ashok Kumar link. Sure, you strategically link to Something Verbose's post, but you know readers aren't going to sift through numerous links. You have missed the political nature and it smells like it was intentional.


Open Letter to Eli Judge:

As student community constituents at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, we would like to express our strongest and most sincere disgust in the wake of the recent letter requesting your resignation.

This cheap political attack authored by several students who do not represent the deep well of support within our community is a completely inappropriate politicization Brittany Zimmermann's death. It is a call made by the same individuals who sought to bring down the quality of debate and campaign you so diligently maintained throughout your initial run and tenure. It is very clear that these individuals have, as usual, sought to discredit your continued efforts and support of student safety initiatives through a minimal and largely superficial understanding of the events surrounding this controversy.

As the following undersigned, we appreciate your hard work on a variety of issues relating to campus safety and strong support of student rights. By passing the textbook ordinance, thousands of students are now protected from thefts that frequently affected our bank accounts and grades. In addition, your work with ASM setting up a campus wide watch program, similar to the Langdon Street Watch, is an important first step to continue building a stronger student effort to keep our streets safe at night. Furthermore, we applaud your effort to secure extra funding in the last budget for the Rape Crisis Center; this is an incredibly important resource for students and citizens of Madison. Finally, your recent work on the photo ordinance was outstanding. By requiring photographic evidence of damage done by tenants, your work has single handedly protected thousands of students who are at the mercy of landlords every year.

For these reasons, and many more, including your accessibility through the Eli Judge Alder Hours, and well-documented immediate responses to crises such as the Sig Ep Fire last week, we the undersigned express our deepest and strongest support for your work. Do not give in to a slim minority who have a political agenda and are not looking out for the interests of Madison and its students.

Regarding the 911 Board, it is certainly regrettable, but not representative of your work and incredibly high attendance rate on city committees, hovering around 94%. Your response on could not have been more clear:

"I feel obligated to offer a full apology to my constituents, along with the City of Madison at large, for not having pressed harder for my removal from the Communications Board. I realize now that, although I communicated my inability to attend board meetings on several occasions, I should have marched into the Mayor's office and informed him that I would not leave until my removal was complete."

It is unfortunate that after numerous requests you were not removed from the committee. This is the failing of red tape on an organizational level, and not a fault your ignorance or malevolence.

Thank you for all of your hard work and please remember, students of Madison wholeheartedly support you and the amazing work you have done on the Madison Common Council.

In Solidarity,

*Claire Rydell, Chair of College Democrats of Madison
*Sara Mikolajczak, Chair of the College Republicans of UW-Madison
*Andrew Voss, Vice Chair of the College Democrats of Madison
*Eli Lewien, former Chair of the College Democrats of Madison
*Oliver Kiefer, former Chair of the College Democrats of Madison
*John Barnhardt, former President of the Wisconsin Union
*Suchita Shah, former Vice Chair of the College Democrats of Madison
*Jess Pavlic, Chair, State Langdon Neighborhood Association, Representative to the Associated Students of Madison
*Jeff Wright, L&S Representative on UW-Madison’s Associated Students of Madison
*Brittany Wiegand, UW-Madison’s Associated Students of Madison
*Alex Gallagher, former chair of Associated Students of Madison’s SSFC, former Representative
*Hannah Karns, UW-Madison’s Associated Students of Madison
*Richard Dovere, former Executive Director of UW-Madison’s Roosevelt Institution
*Paul Axel - Deputy Volunteer Chair, College Democrats of Madison
*David Lapidus, former candidate for Dane County Board of Supervisors
*Adam Petras, Former Executive Board Member of the College Democrats of Madison
*Ben Borsuk, past President of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at UW-Madison
Lauren Milek
Scott Resnick
Bryon Eagon
Christopher Tiernan
Sam Chasin
Laura Egli
Craig Novak
Derek House
Sergio Acosta
Steve Samuel
Matt Weil
Maggie Raiken
Zack Krejci
Steven Lawrence
Adam Lang
Adam Smith
Andy Myszewski
Noah Carrillo
Matt Weingarten
Patrick McEwen
Andrew Gordon
Nick Gonzales
Daniel Spirn
Libby Strait
Hannah Shtein
David Christopher
Emily Jenner
Michael Zukrow

*(please note we used titles for identification purposes)

Anonymous said...

To 8:51 --
The "political nature" yeah buddy everything you post on your blog is a "political nature" and of course its "intentional". The facts are simple Eli missed 100% of the committee meetings and he could have resigned from that position. Does that change because you are doing guilt by association to Kumar? No, I don't think so. Does it change because you get a bunch of hacks to sign a letter? nope, don't think so. Here is the difference between this constituent criticism of Judge and statements put out by Kumar's secret Fish/chicken-eating "rumor" of last year or the so-called "absences" that have been perpetually debunked: The letter about Judge is based on facts. The most hypocritical part about this is that you clowns said Kumar was contributing to the lack of public safety because he instituted he supported rehab rather than more policing.

Russell Wallace said...

Thanks for keeping the comments reasonably civil. 8:51 Anon, I won't delete your comment, but I'm also not going to move your letter of support for Eli to the post itself. It's been widely disseminated, and I've linked to it on the Critical Badger.

Russell Wallace said...

Some further thoughts. Eli made an unfortunate and relativly minor mistake. A self-inflicted flesh wound which, due to circumstances beyond his control, became infected and now poses a serious threat to his political viability.

Eli's supporters would be wise to take the same approach as Eli, which is to deal with the issue head on, and not waste time trying to shoot the messengers. In the end it doesn't matter who broke or pushed the story. Should Eli run for office in the future, attempts to blame others for this mess won't help, and may actually hurt.

If you're a friend or supporter of Eli, keep in mind that this isn't about you. It's about Eli. Carefully consider how what you write may be interpreted in the future by voters who don't have a clue about the history and motives of the current players. Going on the warpath may feel good now, but it may also be handing ammunition to Eli's opponents down the road.

Anonymous said...


Please delete the comment refering to people such as the Chairs of the College Democrats, College Republicans, members of State-Langdon, and ASM as "clowns" and "hacks" if you are interested in "civil discourse" as you claim.

Also, your decision not to post the letter is deeply troubling and terribly predictable.

Still story does not have, and will not have legs, no matter how hard you try.

Andy said...


The people responsible for writing the incendiary letter regarding Alder Judge's inability to attend 911 commission meetings have fabricated this notion of widespread "concern" about his leadership out of a personal desire for revenge for Lauren Woods' loss of the campaign against Mr. Judge. It has nothing to do with his performance, or even his attendance at meetings.

Stop downplaying the incredible amount of support that Eli enjoys on this campus and will continue to enjoy in spite of this contrived controversy.

I wonder why the story didn't hit until after the Daily Cardinal and the Badger Herald shut down, and many students left campus? Because had it been fairly presented to the 8th district, his own constituents, this story wouldn't hold a drop of water.

Post the full letter, because it is a far better measure of the reality of this situation. Give voice to all sides of this debate, instead of just those who dismiss hard-working campus leaders as "hacks."

Anonymous said...

"The facts are simple Eli missed 100% of the committee meetings and he could have resigned from that position."

Eli tried to resign, twice. Look at the a part of the reply he posted on his blog.

"I was, as you might imagine, surprised and disappointed by this revelation given my previous suggestion that I be removed due to my academic conflicts. My spring semester schedule was equally prohibitive of my attendance at board meetings, despite my best efforts to make room for both the Communications Board and the several other committees I serve on for city business. I replied to the Mayor with the same suggestion that I offered the board representatives months prior which was to remove me from the board due to my conflicts academically."

Anonymous said...

The cb post doesn't have all of the signatures. If you care about fairness in any way you'd also publish the full pro eli letter.

Madison resident said...


If you want this post to be informational (as you claim in your intro), you would post both letters in their entirety and allow the casual observer to decide for himself. I think it's great that all these links are up there. It saves me time from having to search through the Madison blogosphere. But it would really help to have both of the letters there side-by-side to compare.

Initially, I was bewildered by Alder Judge's absences, especially after reading the first letter. But reading his explanation on his blog and the second letter signed by all the student leaders cleared up any hesitation I might have had about Judge.

Putting both letters up side-by-side there would only be fair. Unless, that is, you're trying to color the discussion one way against Judge.


PS -- If you're going to link this whole thing to the murder of a UW student, at least spell her name correctly.

Russell Wallace said...

I published the complaint letter because I was asked to by a reporter, someone I deeply respect, who wasn't satisfied with the coverage of this issue by his news organization. I then linked to everything I could find on the controversy, starting with Eli's thoughtful response. I'm sorry if this isn't enough to satisfy some folks, but that's the way it is.

Anonymous said...

How is that the way it is? You're intentionally slanting the debate toward a contrived version of the truth by refusing to admit that Eli continues to enjoy a tremendous level of support from the campus community, in spite of a letter signed by students who don't reflect the opinions of the student body as a whole. I'm glad you're interested in airing all sides of the controversy - so post the letter of support so that people can see both sides of this issue in one place instead of having to click through a maze of links.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Russell Wallace said...

As I said, I'll remove comments that aren't appropriate. You can still make your points forcefully without being insulting or childish.

Eli supporters, please keep in mind that what you write here, good or bad, reflects back on Eli. Rude comments, like the one I deleted, don't exactly help him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Russell for posting this. Yeah King and Kumar were very popular on campus when they were in office as well, however, we had CB and a couple others try to tarnish their names. I love how they children demand some kind of journalistic balance from others and make up lies and slander about people they disagree with, you know the people that ACTUALLY DO THINGS TO BETTER SOCIETY. Keep it up Russell!

Anonymous said...

Russell, if you are looking at this objectively I would be curious to know why you did not cite Ashok Kumar as the author of the first letter and more importantly, why you think it was appropriate that he did not sign his name to the letter he wrote and whether or not there was a political motivation behind that?

If that is the case, does that not change the scope of the letter you posted and widely disseminate it in the same manner which you cite the reason for not posting the second letter signed by members of the left, right, center from all corners of campus?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Russell Wallace said...

Another comment bites the dust. What a shame.

The reason I didn't cite Ashok as the author of the letter is that he didn't write it.

When I read the CB post about the letter it looked pretty damning. So I actually called Ashok and asked him if the letter was his. He said no. OK. I then asked him why, if that was the case, was he listed as the creator of the letter's file. He gave me a pretty convincing and credible answer.

Not that I would expect Danny or anybody else in that crowd to believe it, given their loyalties and preconceptions. But my experience with Ashok has been that that he's pretty trustworthy and upfront, and I'm a reasonably good judge of character.

anon. said...

So let me get this straight. It's theoretically possible that someone else authored the letter and emailed it to Ashok, requesting that he add his name. Ashok downloaded the letter to his computer and opened it with Word and then saved it under a different file name. Then, when Ashok either returned the letter or passed it on (to either other friends or to reporters whose contact information he had), his name appeared on the document as the author (because he had saved it last). This is possible? But it's not a square on my jump to conclusions mat. What should I do?!?

Russell Wallace said...

Actually, you're pretty close. Ashok told me that he was sent the letter in an email and asked to sign. He refused, as I think he should have. But he also felt the letter was too harsh, so he pasted it into Word, toned it down a bit, and sent the Word document back. I don't know if it was edited further before it was sent out.

Rather interesting that Eli and Ashok seem to be the people acting most responsibly in this whole mess. If Eli's supporters hadn't attacked Ashok for missing meetings when he was an alder, a charge that seems to have been largely inaccurate, then I doubt that Ashok's supporters would have written the letter.

This is a clear case of blowback. Eli is paying the price for the ill-considered past actions of some of his supporters.

Steven Lawrence said...

Come, on Russel. Don't try and play this down and make it like you were trying to be fair here and don't shoot the messenger and all that BS. There was clearly a ton of people who were very much in support of Eli and thought his reasoning was acceptable. You wrote a negative post about him and completely downplayed all of the popular support Eli was receiving. Then you said, oh but I linked to it. That would be like Bill O'Reilly recommending that viewers watch CNN for a liberal perspective and then calling himself fair and balanced because he directed people where they go to hear another view.

It's a cop out and you know it.

As for Ashok missing meetings being innaccurate. That is just pure bullshit. I took the evidence in my post straight from the minutes and even spent a ton of time poring over the videos online to see if the minutes were correct.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one here who notices that Mr. Wallace seems to always believe, in full, Ashok and this "mystery reporter" while pushing to the extremes any pro-Judge, anti-Ashok, anti-Wallace rhetoric?

If you were anything more than taking cheap shots, you'd both:

(1) Delete the comments above calling respected UW students clowns

(2) post the full, pro-Eli Judge letter

But you won't.

And just like other things you've posted, this story has no legs.

You lose.

Russell Wallace said...

The sad thing is that it's Eli who's losing here, and some of you guys are at least partly responsible.

I know Eli has lots of strong supporters. That's not the issue. All that matters in politics is if you have more supporters who vote on election day than the other guy, and this controversy isn't exactly helping Eli in that regard.

The reason I believe Ashok is because he's earned my trust. Although Ashok has supported me in the past, and I him, that isn't why I trust him. I also trust Oliver, and he and I weren't exactly on the same team. Oliver's job was to take care of the College Dems, and he did what he had to. Both of us understood that upfront. But Oliver played his role respectfully, and that's what's important to me.

Donald Spann said...

Russell -
The so-called "opposition" to Ashok are limited to four people: Steven, Suchita, Danny, and Eli Lewien. Their absolute obsession with Ashok is so pathetic and sad. They try to be historical revisionists claiming to speak for the "student body". The students and Ashok's former constituents support him heavily no matter what kind of myths these kids try to perpetuate. I signed on to the letter and Ashok didn't because he didn't want to politicize it. He did make edits tho cuz we asked him to look it over. Ashok was and is immensely popular on campus regardless of what these Democratic Party Hacks think. Ashok is like you, Russell, he believes that attacking people instead of issues, and believing in the status quo rather than structural reforms is not the way we will see real change in our society or the Democratic Party. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

What's with all of this 'losing' going on russell? You play judge, jury, and executioner and it makes little sense.

Also worth noting: when lauren woods lost to judge last year mr. Spann wrote on her facebook wall how he 'hated' madison at the time.

That's some representation of the student voice. Lol.

Anonymous said...


this accomplished...


Great work.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:15,

Donald Spann wrote
at 9:39pm on April 5th, 2007

Well I must say I hate madison right now. haha

Hated, indeed. Good work.

Anonymous said...

Haha. Wow what a dager. Like being poked with a toothpick to death. You're reaching here russ.

Anonymous said...


The DPDC stands with you. I met you once during the Fair Wisconsin campaign; you are - literally - one of the most inspirational stories in Wisconsin politics today. You've done more for my husband and I than you'll ever know.

-dpdc members

Russell Wallace said...

I've never really understood why some of Eli Judge's supporters seem to have it in for Ashok. More like a personal vendetta than a political grudge. As far as I can tell Eli doesn't have a problem with Ashok, which makes it kind of sad that he catches the blowback from all the fighting.

Can anybody explain this to me? It would be good to hear from both sides.

Anonymous said...

1. Ashok calling the College Democrats racist -- implies Eli Judge supporters are racist

2. Ashok having a major role in a campaign that implied Eli Judge was anti-gay, as through a literature piece dropped in UW dorms by the fake UW student organization, Students for Robbie Webber

3. Generally antagonistic towards those who oppose him in anything -- those in the know can cite numerous examples.

4. Ashok, and people like you, do cheap political attacks like this but are too cowardly to man up and say, "yeah, I want revenge" or "yeah, this is me trying to fuck with you because you beat me a year ago."

5. Eli Judge campaigned for Ashok in his dorm freshman year. Name one thing Ashok has done to help Eli.

Lindsey Lee said...

Hey Russell,

Thanks for encouraging people to be civil on your blog. People can be "hard noised" and still remain civil. You are a good example of that.

To the degree that I have been follow it, I have been impressed with Eli Judge. He had big shoes to fill with Austin King leaving but he seems to have quickly gotten up to speed. They obviously have different styles but both have been good progressives in their own way.

It is worth noting the the university area district has in recent years been adding the higher quality members to the common council and county board.

My two cents concerning the controversy at hand is that Eli Judge's explanation seems to answer the question that was raised. I know even less about it, but it seems the same was also true about Ashok Kumar.


Lindsey Lee said...

That should have been "hard nosed." But "hard noised" also sort of works...

Anonymous said...

Judge caters to student needs better than Kumar
By: Erik Opsal /The Daily Cardinal - November 15, 2007

Eli Judge has been a better representative for students than Ashok Kumar

If you asked most students on this campus who Eli Judge is, they would probably recognize the name even if they didn’t know specifically that he is their campus alder. If you ask those same students who Ashok Kumar is, their chances of knowing who he is are considerably lower.

As our two student representatives, Judge on the Madison City Council and Kumar on the Dane County Board, they have a unique opportunity to reach out to students and make our voices heard when it comes to city and countywide politics. However, first they need to listen, and so far we’ve seen mixed results.

Since his election in April, Judge has exceeded many of our expectations on the City Council, taking the lead on the issue that matters most to UW-Madison students—safety—by helping establish and maintain the ASM Downtown Neighborhood Watch Program. He also passed the Textbook Ordinance and fought against the Alcohol Licensing Density Plan. According to Judge, he does this by being open and accessible to students. “Seeing as keeping the pulse of a district is one of the hardest and most important tasks an elected representative must maintain, I have been reaching out in several ways to try and grasp a constantly up-to-date view of my residents,” Judge said.

Through his blog and the “Alder Hours” he holds at Memorial Union twice per week, Judge’s presence on campus is well known, which explains why more students know who he is and are willing to contact him with concerns. “Some residents could also tell you that I am no stranger to house calls,” he said.

Since his election in April 2006, Kumar has been accused of being out of touch with his constituents. During his time on the county board, Kumar has passed a housing equality ordinance and a fair labor ordinance, both of which he ran on during his campaign. He has also tried to create a bus line directly from the downtown area to the airport and plans to introduce a measure to clean up Dane County lakes.

Are these out of touch? No, not really. However, it is the other, more radical, initiatives we hear about that make us wonder if Kumar really has his finger on the pulse of UW-Madison students. For instance, many, including the Wisconsin State Journal, deemed his resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney a waste of time for county government.

Seeing as Kumar believes impeachment is the most important issue for the county board, which he himself said in a Capital Times article, the idea that he is out of touch with students is easily perpetuated. Unfortunately, he does very little to combat that image. Although Kumar does make his e-mail and cell phone number available to the public, what good does that do if we aren’t aware that he wants us to contact him?

According to Kumar, to reach out to students in his district—which includes two more wards than Judge’s—he attends “a number of classes, student groups and community meetings” to discuss the effect of county policies on students. Kumar also said he is continuously involved with “student of color organizations” as well as the Campus Anti-war Network and the Student Labor Action Coalition.

“Having run with the Green Party, Socialist Party, and Progressive Dane Party endorsements, I am unabashedly leftist and that is where my politics have always been,” he said. “However, this does not limit me in listening to all my constituents’ concerns which I have done since the day I stepped into office.”

I’ll acknowledge that Kumar meets with student organizations, but what about the other 80 percent of students he represents who are not participants in those organizations? In light of Judge’s stellar performance as a student representative, the perception of Kumar as inaccessible and out of touch grows every day.

Whether it’s justified or not, we must keep this in mind in April when we move to replace Kumar on the Dane County Board—he has said he will not run for re-election—and elect someone willing to put forth more effort in reaching out to students. Someone who will start a blog and hold “Supervisor Hours.” I’ll be happy as long as Austin King stays far, far away.

Erik Opsal is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Please send responses to